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Why aren’t more films made in NH? Filmmakers behind Oscar-nominated 'The Holdovers' have some ideas

Two people stand in front of vintage yellow taxi cabs
Stunt coordinator Amy Greene and producer Chris Stinson on the set of "The Holdovers."

The film “The Holdovers” is nominated for several Oscars, and its lead actors have already won a couple Golden Globes. The story takes place on a New England boarding school campus in the 1970s, and who better to make that story than two Granite Staters?

NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with “The Holdovers'' producer Chris Stinson and stunt coordinator Amy Greene about how they are trying to bring more filmmaking to New Hampshire.


I wanted to ask you both about how you got involved in making "The Holdovers."

Chris Stinson: Yeah, it's kind of a long story. We started prepping a different film with Alexander Payne, the director, years ago, and during that film he found out we were from – I'm from New Hampshire. Amy's from Texas, but we live in Portsmouth. And he was like, "I have a movie I want to bring to New England.” And so he shared the script with us.

Amy Greene: Yeah, I think the screenplay is incredible. It’s written by David Hemingson, who's also from New England. And I was just really excited to work with AP (Alexander Payne) again because he's amazing. AP is incredible. And even though his movies don't have a ton of stunts in them, he's an appreciator of film and stunts. And he taught me about Yakima Canutt, who's one of the very first stuntmen, and a film history version of stunts. And it was really cool to work with Alexander on the action in the film.

You've worked on big Hollywood films like "Knives Out," "Don't Look Up," but your production company is New Hampshire based Live Free or Die Films. Now, Chris, you're a Concord native. What made you want to come back to New Hampshire and base your career?

Chris Stinson: Just so I could live free or die. But honestly, there's not as much filmmaking in Los Angeles anymore because of tax credits. So we did "Sound of Metal" and "Knives Out" back to back because of the Massachusetts tax credit. And then from that we got a number of other films we helped crew up. And it's almost busier back here than it is in Los Angeles. So we were like, "Why are we there anymore?"

Does that come down to tax credits – what various regions or states or cities are willing to offer?

Amy Greene: Yeah, we do tend to work in a lot of tax incentive states. It's easy to draw either a studio or a financier to a state with a tax incentive. But we're trying to do our best to draw a little bit of the film community up to New Hampshire, as well.

Is that a hard sell because there are no specific incentives here in New Hampshire?

Chris Stinson: It is a hard sell. We initially actually on "The Holdovers" tried to scout locations here in New Hampshire, and then the financier kind of caught on like, "Wait, what's that address? That's not Massachusetts."

In a nutshell, in Massachusetts, you get back 25%. So if you spent $10 million, at the end of the day you get a check back for $2.5 million. You spend $10 million in New Hampshire, you get a check back for zero. So obviously whoever's paying for dinner wants that discount.

So it is a challenge, but there are a lot of little things that New Hampshire can do that we're actually actively working on with a larger group of filmmakers in the state as incentives that aren't just a check back. It's a lot cheaper here. There are a lot of other things that New Hampshire can position itself as without necessarily a tax credit.

So the cost of production up front could be less in New Hampshire than it would in Massachusetts?

Chris Stinson: Very much.

Amy Greene: Absolutely. We've been trying to show how you can not spend the money in the first place and not need the check back. And one example we talk about a lot is our airports. A lot of times if you're shooting in Massachusetts and you have an airport scene, you're going to go to Logan.

Logistically [it] must be a nightmare.

Amy Greene: Yeah, it's a big hit to the budget, and then the logistics are really crazy. So just a short distance away, you can go to Manchester or Pease who also want you there. They're so friendly. We've been to both, and they're really great options for airports. So why not shoot there?

What's the benefit to a place of having a film profile, of being known as a location for filming?

Chris Stinson: Oh, I like that. So, "On Golden Pond" is the film that comes up for New Hampshire and that was shot a long time ago. And that's really the last major film that's been shot here that people can point to. Massachusetts has, like, one a month. So what that's turned into is also – let alone all the money it's brought in, which has been over $3 billion and film production spent since they started their tax credit – there's now a film tourism group. You can book all these tours and go to these locations. So they're building up these other industries, as well.

Amy Greene: I would say there's also something to be talked about with our proximity to such a successful tax incentive state with Massachusetts, because over time, there's been a crew base that is built up. The more movies that come here, the more locals learn the different crafts that are necessary to make a movie. And there's definitely an established crew base. When we were shooting "Knives Out," I think there were six studio films shooting at the same time in Massachusetts. A lot of those people actually live in New Hampshire. A lot of people are in that same vicinity. So we do have the crew base.

There's an incredible stunt community in New England as well, which I think a lot of people might not be aware of. [For] stunts, a lot of people [are] going to fly in your stunt doubles, and maybe your coordinator from LA, or Atlanta is a big stunt hub, and then New York for a lot of the TV work. But New England has quite a healthy stunt community. And I've been able to completely cast a number of films, including "The Holdovers," with all New England talent.

Chris Stinson: And that's one thing that's happening to us now is we're getting hit up. There are a fair amount of crew in New Hampshire, but we're one of the companies that exists as filmmakers in New Hampshire. So we'll get a lot of emails [from] younger kids being like, "I'm getting ready to graduate. [Do] you need interns? I really want to get in the film industry. What do I do?" Years ago I'd be like, "Well, New York or LA." But now we say, "No, you can stay here."

And that's another reason that we want to help bring movies here is because it retains this younger demographic with a good paying job, and they don't have to leave New Hampshire. New Hampshire is not really getting much younger, and I think it could use some help. So we can take some of these kids and teach them how to PA, how to do some of the level entry jobs. And then perhaps they'll stay, or they can at least stay in New England, consider Massachusetts, hopefully New Hampshire, and not have to go all the way out West.

Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
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